Friday, June 15, 2007

Aristotle on Virtue and Choice

Virtue and Choice
Voluntary and Involuntary Actions
There are two types of actions, voluntary and involuntary.
Good actions are the result of good choices. An action must be voluntary in order to be the proper object of praise or blame.
Compulsion and Ignorance
Acts you are compelled to do and acts that you do by reason of ignorance are acts you are not responsible for.
If I slip on a rug and break your favorite vase I am not blameworthy.
There are gray areas and mixed cases. What if I deliberately do some immoral act because a gunman is holding my wife and kids?
Not all ignorance excuses
If I murder someone, I can’t avoid blame if I say I didn’t know murder was wrong.
But if I in good faith offer someone water and it turns out to be poisoned, my act is unfortunate but not blameworthy
Acting in ignorance and acting by reason of ignorance
Sometimes blameworthy ignorance causes harm. If I ought to have known the gun was loaded, but I didn’t bother to check to see that it was, then I can be blamed for killing my small child.
If a 5-year old shoots himself with a gun that I left on the table carelessly, then that’s my fault, not his. He acted by reason of ignorance, I acted in ignorance.

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